Bernie

Directed by Richard Linklater
  • US
  • 104 minutes
  • 2011
Jack Black was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor (Comedy/Musical)

Richard Linklater (School of Rock, Me and Orson Welles) has made a career of defying expectations. Bernie might be his most unexpected film yet. Based on a true story, Bernie is a dark joke with a straight face – and the surprising deadpan in this movie belongs to Jack Black.

He plays Bernhardt Tiede, assistant funeral director in the small Texas town of Carthage. As described by the real residents of Carthage, Bernie was someone who everyone thought the world of. He sings in church, visits the sick and has a cheerful word for everyone in town. Yet his social life is something of a mystery until he befriends the town’s richest widow, Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine). Suddenly, Bernie and Mrs Nugent are inseparable. But she doesn’t have the reputation as the meanest woman in town for nothing – and even the town’s nicest guy, Bernie Tiede, has his limits.

What gives Bernie its fizz, its kick, its sheer enjoyable weirdness is the oddly engaging give-and-take between Black (a master of contained energy) and MacLaine. Bernie never quite goes where you expect it to. Go in with a fresh eye and you’ll appreciate this completely fresh little movie.

Marshall Fine, Huffington Post